The FBI conducted 2,767,699 NICS background checks in March 2018, the highest number on record for the 31-day period since the system began nearly 20 years ago. Although new carry permits, renewals and other administrative files processed by the agency are included in the figures, the majority are for gun purchases, making it a widely accepted sales barometer for firearm industry sales.
The month is also the fourth highest ever in volume, trailing only December 2015 (3,314,594), December 2012 (2,783,765) and December 2016 (2,771,159). March’s numbers were up 434,506 from February and 2018 is currently ahead of last year’s pace—which set the second-highest annual total—by 419,929.
NICS check requests for handgun purchases outpaced long guns at 781,452 to 540,979. The top five states for pistols were Pennsylvania (67,756), Florida (64,230), Texas (60,134), California (47,425) and Ohio (36,314). Texas took top honors in long guns, followed by California and Florida. The highest number of multiple-gun transactions last month took place in Texas.
The annual highwater mark for NICS checks was established in 2016—a record-setting 27,538,673. Last year’s runner-up total was 25,235,215, although that position in in jeopardy if this year maintains its pace.
The system began operation on Nov. 30, 1998, when it processed 21,196 background check requests. Its heaviest single day total came in 2017 on Nov. 24—Black Friday—at 203,806. The day after Thanksgiving holds the top three spots in that category and to date, the FBI has handled a total of more than 285 million NICS checks.